By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Chilly temperatures and flowing water provided bird enthusiasts with a majestic show during the 29th annual eagle watch on Saturday.
The more than 200 people who ventured to Lock and Dam 13 in Fulton, Ill., saw approximately 65 bald eagles in their natural habitat. The birds of prey dove for fish, rested on pieces of ice, preened in the trees and soared through the open skies to the delight of onlookers.
“It’s not perfect, but this is really good eagle-watching weather. Some did the getting to know you mating dance,” Biologist Technician Eric Tomasovic said. “They spin around and then spiral down. That's a first date we’re watching. It’s pretty dramatic.”
Tomasovic was one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees to staff the event and aid people hoping to witness the bald eagle behavior. Last year’s warm temperatures meant the eagles were more spread out along the river, eluding eager attendees. This year, however, the cooler temperature created ice along with a river that forces the eagles to congregate in areas where there is open water such as the lock and dam in Fulton.
According to Tomasovic, eagle nests in the area are up to 48.
Last year 58 young were born, he said. Although the count of eagles on Saturday was moderately low, there was still a fair amount of spectating to be had.
Among those peering through the scopes overlooking the Mississippi River was 7-year-old Aiden Roberts of Clinton.
“I like to get out and learn stuff like about younger bald eagles,” Aiden said. “I saw 10 in the tree.”
It wasn't only Gateway-area residents who attended the event. Bird lovers and photographers from as far away as California watched in awe.
Andrea Evans, who originally hails from Australia and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area in California, was visiting friends and wanted to make sure to check out the winged creatures. "I’m mad for raptors. They’re beautiful, brilliant creatures,” Evans said. “My friends back home are going to be green with envy.”
At Clinton Community College the education continued. The room was lined with booths from organizations such as the Clinton County Conservation Office, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and others. Rudy Vallejo, a Kickapoo eagle dancer with the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, performed a Native American dance in honor of the bald eagle. Naturalists from the Wildlife Prairie State Park in Hanna City, Ill., gave a birds of prey program featuring a live barn owl, coopers hawk, red tail hawk, peregrine falcon and a bald eagle named Mikitscha.